February 07, 2014 / by Josh

Open Funding Data on 1,000+ Environmental Projects

Working in partnership Viable Industries LLC., Foundation for Pennsylvania Watersheds (FPW), and Chesapeake Commons successfully launched FPWGrants.org. The new site allows FPW staff and the general public to visualize, query, and roll up invaluable statistics on 1,021 environmental restoration projects throughout the state of Pennsylvania. Leveraging the open source technology of Commons Cloud, FPW can transparently share the impact of their grant making dollar for dollar by watershed, Pennsylvania House/Senate district, county, or large scale river basin.

Users are able to effectively drill down to view project investments by interacting with a series of well designed search tools making FPW’s grant’s database open and transparent. For example FPW was named the benefactor of a 2011 settlement from GenOn-a coal-fired electric power producer. This settlement resulted in 3.5 million dollars for environmental projects within the Kiski/Conemaugh watersheds and is geared to leverage other grant funded restoration work. Using the new site, program officers at FPW are able to track, document, and share the on going work funded by the GenOn settlement dollars, demonstrating accountability and impact through environmental grantmaking.

Static and Blazingly Fast

The static site runs without a content management system. It is a light and fast web based application built on our newly released static site generator (Commons Cloud), and it’s hosted in Github pages. Viable Industries and Chesapeake Commons worked together to ensure all information can be accessed via a RESTful application programming interface (API) for easy incorporation into other workflows and applications outside the site.

FPWGrants.org’s relational back end makes it easy for program officers to integrate data updates into their daily routine, ensuring data being fed to the publically facing site is accurate, up to date, and dynamic. Our team went to great lengths to ensure all code and data used to power the product is available to the client. This ensures that FPW benefits from custom software development approaches but is not “locked-in” to using the Commons and Viable exclusively.

App Highlights

On load, the homepage allows users to see comprehensively the total grant dollars spent, total projects implemented, linear feet of stream restored, linear feet of riparian buffers implemented, and linear feet of stream channel design. Users can then access a series of advanced search and geographic query tools to drill down, making data locally relevant. Clicking on a county will roll up all metrics by the geography while an advanced search menu let’s the users query within the geography they selected. The geographic search allows users to roll up FPW metrics by any of the preloaded layers. The application supports lightening fast roll up statistics by 113th Congressional Districts, watershed boundaries (HUC 8 and HUC 4), county, and the latest PA House/Senate Districts.

The advanced search menu enables users to hit FPW’s database from just about any direction. Users can query by keyword, funding and date ranges, project partners, and FPW program to name a few. Further, the user can leverage both the geographical and advanced search components to filter grants that meet their specific criteria. A single grants pages can be accessed from both the grant view toggle or by clicking a teardrop on the map. The single grant page provides useful information on the project timeline, abstract, photos, and even a satellite map of where the project occurs on the ground.

Our work with Foundation for Pennsylvania Watersheds and Viable Industries empowers local stakeholders to know what type of restoration has occured in their backyard. We are excited about the results of this collaberative effort and feel both the new site and associated data service will provide policy makers, NGOs, and other foundations with useful strategic and operational insights.

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